Coronavirus (1072) Covid-19: Stop anti-vaccination fake news online with new law

15 November, 2020

Here are extracts from the top news item on the BBC website today, and a comment from me.


Emergency laws to "stamp out dangerous" anti-vaccine content online should be introduced, Labour [the opposition party in the UK] has said.

The party is calling for financial and criminal penalties for social media firms that do not remove false scare stories about vaccines.

It follows news of progress on the first effective coronavirus vaccine...

Many social media platforms label false content as misleading or disputed - and all remove posts that contravene terms of service.

But Labour said a commitment by platforms to remove content flagged by the government was not enough...

In the letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Labour said there were dedicated anti-vaccination groups online with hundreds of thousands of followers who were "churning out disinformation" on the issue.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the "spread of disinformation online presents a real and present danger" to the take-up of any potential vaccine.

"This is literally a matter of life and death and anyone who is dissuaded from being vaccinated because of this is one person too many," Ms Stevens said.

Last week, the government announced that social media companies had agreed a package of measures - including that no company should be profiting from Covid vaccine fake news.

But Labour warned that the measures do not go far enough and has questioned why anti-vax groups are not being closed down.


Comment (NPW): I agree that more should be done to 'stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content online' and indeed other forms of dangerous misinformation. HIFA's vision is that every person will have access to the reliable information they need to protect their own health and the healoth of others - and this means they should be protected from misinformation and halped to know the difference between 'reliable' and 'unreliable' information (and to understand where kinowledge is evolving/uncertain). In 2012 we published a white paper with the New York Law School that concluded that governments have a legal obligation to ensure their populations have access to reliable, relevant information. The news item does not mention the perverse impact of policymakers - it is an indictment of the national and international law that heads of state are able to continue peddling dangerous misinformation with impunity and with no accountability.

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, WHO-HIFA Collaboration: HIFA project on COVID-19

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: